of the Ashes
By B.A. Nilsson
42 Howard St., Albany, 694-5320. Serving Mon-Fri
11:30-4, dinner Mon-Fri 5-11, Sat 5-midnight. AE, D, MC, V.
Cuisine: All over the map
Entrée price range: $18 (wild mushroom risotto) to
$35 (venison tenderloin)
Ambience: Dignified and stately
Here’s the kind of news item that frightens
me: “About 44 percent of weekday meals in the U.S. are prepared
in 30 minutes or less, and most consumers would like to cut
that time even further, according to the U.S. Market for Ready
Meals and Side Dishes, a new report by market research publisher
Why would you want to cram your food prep into a half-hour
or less? I think I know the answer: Dinner has become dull.
We make the same old things for ourselves again and again,
and we grab hungrily at anything new and tasty in the world
of food. Two years ago, when Gabriel (“Daniel”) and Alex Atsilov
were running Daniel’s Café on Washington Avenue, I was so
bowled over by the falafel that I begged for the recipe and
Gabriel kindly obliged.
The brothers Atsilov cook with bold flavors and inventive
combinations, so it was a shame to see the café go under.
But their cuisine has been reborn in an Albany landmark, the
old Ogden’s building on Howard Street, a 100-year-old structure
that first housed a telephone office. Designed by noted area
architect Charles Ogden, it acquired his name when it debuted
as a restaurant in 1977.
Current owner Ruth Wallens has spent her professional life
as a freelance writer, with restaurant promotion a specialty.
It was her idea to combine the talents of the Atsilovs with
the handsome Ogden’s building, adding her own marketing expertise
in order to overcome their previous obstacles. She bought
and refurbished the building, and it now looks better than
ever. Not only will you see newly painted walls and new floors
and ceilings, but you’ll also find dining venues in the many
different rooms that previously were left unused—as well as
a patio that will become a dining venue during warm weather.
You may need to redefine your concept of a power lunch if
that’s your noontime plan at Daniel’s, because the menu may
be more interesting than the company you’re with. There’s
a chicken soup ($4, available for lunch and dinner) that’s
as good a brew as you’re likely to find, its excellence a
product of its simplicity. Ten salad items range from an $8
falafel and hummus plate to duck confit over seasonal greens
($11), and mix Middle Eastern (grilled chicken tabouleh, $9)
with Italian (mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, $9) and Greek
(kalamata olives and feta cheese over romaine, $8, also available
with salmon or chicken for a buck or two more). Many of these
are part of the dinner menu as well.
That falafel is the best you’ll find, and it’s accompanied
by pita bread and a spicy olive oil as well as the hummus.
You can also get it as part of the Israeli platter for two
for lunch ($14) or dinner ($17), a worthy holdover from the
Washington Avenue days that also includes baba ganoush (an
eggplant mash), tabouleh and Moroccan-style carrots (a nicely
Panini sandwiches are generous enough for two, averaging $8.
We sampled the mix of grilled portobellos, goat cheese and
pesto, which combined more deftly than I would have expected.
For your hot lunch ($10-$12), lobster ravioli, sliced filet
mignon with gorgonzola and risotto Milanese are among the
entrées, along with kabobs, cous cous, and an excellent plate
of shwarma ($9) that seasons the meat (chicken, when I visited)
with an aromatic blend of (I’m guessing here) nutmeg, cardamon,
cloves, cinnamon, garlic and pepper and serves it with a yogurt
sauce alongside rice and vegetables.
Putting a tangy pomegranate sauce over grilled mahi-mahi is
what this cuisine is all about. As a lunch special ($13),
it was terrific, the sauce mixing nicely with the accompanying
Even on Metroland’s dime, I wasn’t about to bring myself
to order the Kobe beef special ($75), but isn’t it nice to
know it’s there? I had the triple scallopini ($28), which
is termed a signature dish, a combo of sliced chicken, veal
and beef tenderloin in a rich sauce that tended to obscure
rather than complement the components.
Although meat and seafood dishes dominate the dinner entrées,
you’ll find plenty of unusual preparations of familiar ingredients
as well as a few vegetarian items. Sea bass, for instance,
is served with a saffron lemon cream sauce ($22), veal is
stuffed with spinach and served with chanterelles ($28) and
there’s a wild-sounding combo of Brazilian-style lamb stuffed
with filet mignon ($32)!
We started with a shiitake strudel ($10), a terrific melding
of phyllo pastry with mushrooms and blue cheese, along with
a bowl of chicken soup. On the entrée side, we sampled the
chicken kabobs ($15), two skewers of marinated meat served
over rice with a side of sautéed winter vegetables, all of
it cooked just right and boasting complex flavors, and the
grilled quail ($24), which is flavored with such a rich marinade
that it needs no sauce. You’re served two of the diminutive
birds, and again rice and veggies are the sides.
Two of the homemade desserts ($8 each) contrasted mousse-making
techniques: the mango-raspberry mixture was gelatin-based;
the dark, dark chocolate was more buttery.
Service couldn’t have been more amiable, with young, brisk
attendants taking orders and conveying trays, but the dining
room was server-free for long stretches of time. The only
excuse for not having a captain-waiter system is that the
Capital Region remains defiantly ignorant of how professional
restaurant service works. It’s time to change that.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
my druthers, I’d be escaping the cold by touring
the Napa Valley—but you can enjoy a brief, vicarious
escape when chef Daniel E. Smith pairs his excellent
cuisine with wines of the Napa Valley at Nicole’s
Bistro at the Quackenbush House (Clinton &
Broadway, Albany) beginning at 6:15 PM, Thu, March
4. Start with a sparkling Chandon Blancs de Noir
while sampling hors d’oeuvres, then enjoy a yellowfin
tuna tartare with a Sterling Vineyards North Coast
Sauvignon Blanc, tournedos of Colorado buffalo
with a Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Zinfandel and much
more—all for $65 per person. For reservations,
call 465-1111. . . . The Hudson Valley Council
of Girl Scouts holds its 16th annual Trefoil
Awards Gala at the Desmond from 7 PM-midnight
Fri, March 12. The event includes a seafood presentation,
delicious hors d’oeuvres and an elaborate buffet.
GSHVC will be honoring Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson,
President of RPI, with the Trefoil Award and Carmine’s
Restaurant with the Ruth W. Witte Corporate Trefoil
Award. And Desmond executive chef Michael St.
John will create a troop of desserts for the event
using Girl Scout Cookies including: Trefoilmisu
(a tiramisu using Trefoil shortbread cookies),
Double Dutch Bread Pudding (using the new Double
Dutch double chocolate cookies), Do Si Do Cheesecake
(using the peanut butter sandwich cookies) and
Lemon Cooler Parfait (using the new low-fat Lemon
Cooler cookies). Tickets are $75 per person. Call
Sharon Smith at 489-8110 ext.105 for more information.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
fax info to 922-7090)
want your feedback
you eaten at Daniels at Ogdens,
or other recently reviewed restaurants?
Agree or disagree with B.A.? Let us know what you think...
one of the things I usually like about B.A.'s reviews,
that was missing here, is that he often brings his family,
specially his child to these meals and includes their
dining experiences in his columns. As a parent who is
always looking fo kid-friendly places that also serve
good food that I'd want to eat, so I especially enjoy
"his take" on what his daughter orders and
how she likes it too, as well as the entire dining experience...
have never been to Ogdens but look forward to the dining
experience. B.A.,,your review leaves me anticipating
a delicious dining experience. Thank you for the suggestion,
it is fun to try new things and I will let you know
how I liked it,although, as usual, I am sure you are
right on the mark.
me again B.A. The Chain Restaurant loving fat guy who
loves big, heaping helpings of prepared, marketed fried
things. Even Chicken Fingers.
could care less about Daniel's at Ogdens to be perfectly
honest. I read the review mostly because my office stares
right at it's front door and we all watched as the refurbishing
was done. My problem here today is with your first two
kind of news article that bugs you is what percentage
of Americans spend 30 minutes or less preparing food!?!?
You know what kind of news article bothers me? "Remains
of a woman found stuffed in a barrel......" or
"....Albany Police Lt. dies from injuries sustained
in shootout with suspect." I realize food and it's
service and preparation may be the all consuming obsession
in your life, but please tell me you have a bigger heart
the reason "44 percent of weekday meals in the
U.S. are prepared in 30 minutes or less.." is that
some people work 2 or 3 jobs. Some people may be a single
parent with young children, who may only have less than
30 minutes to spare.
I promise you this, the next time I get 35 minutes or
so.........I'll order some Kobe Beef, puff pastry, shitake
mushrooms and the ingredients to make a proper buerre
blanc....dim the lights, put on a bowtie, apron and
plenty of snotty attitude and invite you over for dinner.
Chicken Fingers ok for an appetizer?